The Government of Gabriel Boric is close to sealing the modernization of the Association Agreement between Chile and the European Union. According to the Chilean ambassador to Spain, Javier Velasco, the conclusion of the negotiations will be announced in November, just as 20 years have passed since the signing of the agreement that entered into force in 2003. This week, within the framework of the Assembly sessions General of the United Nations in New York, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, assured after meeting with the Chilean president that they are “close” to closing the update of the pact.
Despite the fact that Brussels has made clear its interest in accelerating the process – Von der Leyen herself described Chile as a “like-minded partner” in her annual speech before the European Parliament last week – its final ratification will still take several months, even if the best of wills is put in, due to the pending institutional procedures, warn European sources. Even so, the announcement allows to visualize, finally, a horizon to the process. In November 2021, the Piñera Administration ended the negotiations with the European bloc after 13 rounds over four years, begun during the government of Michelle Bachelet.
At the end of April, when the Boric government had been in La Moneda for just over a month, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, visited Santiago de Chile with the intention of closing the update of the agreement. “I would have liked” to finalize it, he said then, but the Chilean president asked him for more time to review technical aspects and procedural issues. “I hope that his reconsideration does not mean reopening the negotiations, but rather a better understanding of the terms of the agreement that has been reached with the previous government,” Borrell said in the Chilean capital.
Five months later, Boric met in New York with the president of the European Commission “to ratify the commitment to modernizing the current agreement with the EU,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. The European leader, through the same social network, stated that among the topics discussed was “the great potential of cooperation between the EU and Chile in terms of raw materials and hydrogen”.
If the signing of the modernization of the agreement, reached during the government of former President Ricardo Lagos, is finalized, it will be “the greenest that Chile has ever signed,” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The pact strengthens sustainable development by promoting environmental and labor protection and includes digital trade, which is not present in the current agreement. In addition, “it will be the first time that the European Union signs a gender and trade chapter in a Free Trade Agreement, promoting equal opportunities and treatment between men and women.”
While the bilateral meetings were taking place in New York, Ambassador Velasco, from the New Economy Forum event in Madrid, also referred to the issue. “Although negotiations have been slow and, of course, very detailed, the truth is that today we are in a position to say, as our foreign minister, Antonia Urrejola, has said, that Chile is going to sign in November the renewal of the agreement between the European Union and our country”. The Undersecretary for International Economic Relations reported last week that the virtual meetings between Chile and the European Union on the matter had concluded, in which the details for the face-to-face meetings that will take place in October in Santiago were fine-tuned.
“We are working with the Government of Chile and we hope to cross the line before the end of the year,” Miriam García Ferrer, community spokesperson for Commerce, confirmed to this newspaper in Brussels. That yes, until the final ratification it will be necessary to wait, at least, several months: once the political negotiations are concluded, “the Commission will proceed to the legal review [del texto] and its translation [a la veintena de idiomas comunitarios] before it can be presented for ratification”, explains the spokeswoman. That last procedure will still take several steps – the Council has to give it its go-ahead before it goes to the European Parliament and returns to the Council for final sealing – and only then will the date of entry into force be decided.
However, in Brussels optimism is felt. After a time when the ratification of treaties was greatly slowed down by national objections, the war in Ukraine and the consequent need to seek new resources and new partners to diversify suppliers has breathed new life into pending processes. And Chile is one of the countries with the most reserves of lithium, a key mineral to accelerate the change towards a more sustainable energy model that Europe so longs for. In addition, Spain, the EU member with the most interest in strengthening ties with Latin America, will assume the rotating presidency of the Twenty-seven in the second half of 2023, which should further facilitate the process.
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